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US admiral says China will take 'de facto' control over disputed sea

FILE - In this Sept. 17, 2015 file photo, Adm. Harry Harris, Jr., US Navy Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Harris delivered some choice put-downs of China as tensions rise over Beijing’s build-up in the disputed South China Sea. On Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, before a House panel, he described Chinese militarization as being “as certain as a traffic jam.” AP/Cliff Owen, File

MANILA, Philippines — A United States admiral expressed concern that China will exercise "de facto" control of the South China Sea following its recent activities in the disputed sea.

"Short of war with the United States, China will exercise de facto control of the South China Sea," said Adm.Harry Harris, commander of the US Pacific Command, in a press briefing at the Pentagon on Thursday.

Beijing recently deployed surface-to-air missiles in the Woody Island of the Paracel group in the disputed sea.

There have also been reports that China has been building radar systems in some of the features in the Spratly Group of Islands.

READ: Report: China deploys missiles in contested South China Sea island | Think tank says China building radars in Spratlys

Harris noted that these developments prove that China is determined to achieve military control in the region.

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"If China continues to arm all of the bases they have reclaimed in the South China Sea, they will change the operational landscape in the region," Harris said.

The Philippines earlier filed an arbitration case against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, Netherlands due to its massive reclamation activities in the South China Sea.

Beijing had refused to participate in the proceedings and insisted that they have indisputable sovereignty in the region.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi accused the Philippines of "political provocation" in filing a case over the territorial dispute.

Wang claimed that the Philippines violated the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea between China and Southeast Asian nations.

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